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​An F-35B Lightning II with Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron 1 fires an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile during US Marine F-35B operational tests, held Aug. 9, 2016 through Sept. 1, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

​Though it looks like one, the F-35 is “not a fighter,” but is “infinitely, exponentially” better than one, and is certainly far more than a mere replacement for the AV-8B Harrier in Marine Corps usage, F-35B pilot Lt. Col. David Berke said Monday. Speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill about the capabilities of fifth generation air combat, Berke said the Marine Corps is having to shift its thinking about the capability that the F-35B brings to naval aviation. The jet’s voracious information-collecting capability “opens up opportunities” for the Marine Corps to have a significant effect on combat taking place “much further inland” than was possible with the range-limited and payload-restricted AV-8B. The F-35B, he said, offers the ability to gather information with almost no pilot involvement—and feed it to central command authorities—in a way unthinkable with any previous Marine Corps fighter, furthering joint force capability and interoperability. The Harrier flew and so does the F-35, and “that’s where the continuity ends,” he asserted, saying the F-35B, by about 2030, will have totally reshaped both the Marine Corps way of pursuing amphibious warfare and its role in joint air combat.